The Tree of Life (R)

5 Stars

I hate melancholy.

Floating in existential whispery sadness doesn’t warm the cockles.

I can’t believe The Tree of Life was nominated for best picture. Sure there’s good stuff in there, but it’s been a long time since I wanted a movie to end so badly.

Let me start out strong with my best argument.

The hushed tone head-hopping voiceover. It’s artistic, and perhaps it works well with this particular plot.

But I doubt it.

Terrence Malick used the exact same effect in his film The Thin Red Line from 1998. Thirteen years later, it’s still just as distracting and uninformative.

I watched Thin Red Line with my Dad a week ago. He seemed to enjoy it more, because I didn’t love it.

In fact, I found TTRL dull, preachy and heartless. More ‘technically’ good, rather than ‘unquestionably’ good. Throw enough dollars into the visual layout, build a bunch of tension and you’ve got a thumbs-up.

Folks toss around the word, ‘boring’ too much. ‘Boring’ is mostly for whiners. It should only be used to describe something that’s extremely dull.

The Tree of Life is boring.

It’s not better than The Thin Red Line, despite a similar visual format.

What is with the gospel music? Was the plot not dull enough?

The cast is excellent. Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn are all very good.

With all the stylish editing, the movie’s very difficult to follow.

Half of The Tree of Life is nature imagery, and features footage from cosmic to microscopic, from water molecules to supernovae. I’m open to a more whimsical form of storytelling, but eventually it gets tiresome.

I disliked this movie because I think Terrence is saying a lot less than he lets on.

As a period piece and a study of a family living in Waco, Texas in 1956, I’m fine with it. But do we need all of this existential stuff, the intergalactic imagery or the vague timeframe?

It seems the puzzle pieces don’t fit together in any coherent fashion.

There are a couple things I’m confused about.

When the velociraptor removes its foot from the wounded dinosaur’s head, is that supposed to be the moment in Earth’s history when humans began evolving? That our greatest redeeming quality is the capacity for compassion?

Well, if so, then great! What’s it teach us about Brad Pitt’s family in 1956?

I’m not convinced the dinosaurs belong in the movie.

The Oedipus complex is also something I never connect with. Perhaps Terrence is trying to show how it manifests itself even in recent history.

I don’t know, and I guess I just don’t care.

The Tree of Life has a few good moments, however.

Young men will appreciate much of the father-son interactions between Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken.

Whenever Jessica Chastain’s on-screen is generally enjoyable.

At one point, she’s bouncing and twirling in zero gravity beside the tree and it’s enchanting.

If Terry cut out some babbling brooks and tossed in a bit more of Jessica dancing on air, The Tree of Life may have been great.

World War Z (PG-13)

10 Stars

Are they ever going to explain what happened during World Wars ‘A’ through ‘Y’?

Typically, I don’t watch movies more than once.

Probably because I’m anti-contrarian.

It’s why people think I’m a hero.

I’m kidding, but I generally avoid repeated viewings.

You might think this strange, but there are still plenty of winners waiting in my unseen ether.

This inventive new take on the zombie apocalypse grips you within the first ten minutes, and never relents.

Wawazee is one of my top five films of 2013.

I’m nearly positive the opening shot is in homage to Dawn of the Dead, but apparently am the only one who’s noticed.

Sure, the CGI’s not immaculate, but that’s nitpickery.

The pacing may slow down at moments, but even the dreamy Brad Pitt (as Gerry Lane) needs the occasional breather. But it doesn’t slow for me; I care throughout the snappy action and all the space between.

Besides. With such a well-rounded narrative unfolding around Mr. Pitt’s international adventures, the audience needs reminding that these great action scenes, take place within a well-thought-out story.

Anyhow. This film has the second best rating: PG-13.

It’s rare to find a movie that veils this deficiency so adequately.

The supporting cast is excellent. There are several characters you grow to love by the end of the film. Although none from Gerry’s immediate family, come to think of it.

Don’t be a square and turn your nose up at WWZ.

It’s not ‘just another zombie movie.’

It’s a wonderful film.

But spoilers follow; so if you haven’t seen it yet, tear your gaze from this wildly compelling review!

World War Z takes place in several settings across the Earth. Bradley’s pit stops begin after fleeing with his family from Philadelphia to Newark, NJ. Then he journeys alone onto Jerusalem, Wales and finally reunites with his family back in Nova Scotia.

The only real criticism I have is that even after two viewings, I’m not 100% certain why the Jurgen Warmbrunn (played by Ludi Boeken) character’s necessary to the plot.

More specifically, I’m confused about how his position as the ’12th’ man (or the one who must always disagree) on the Israeli council relates to the greater conflict. But honestly, I really don’t care; I’m sure there’s a reason I’m just not seeing.

I won’t go too in depth about the cast, but I think Daniella Kertesz’s performance as Segen, is spectacular.

Not to get too abstract here, but the scene where Gerry severs Segen’s hand, is one of those ‘magical cinematic moments.’ My best description of this emotional swell is ‘breathtaking,’ cliché as it is. But watching that scene I feel extreme tension, elation and a deep appreciation for the writing; all within a short moment.

James Badge Dale as Captain Speke delivers an exceptional performance as well. It gets a little dusty in the theater when his character says goodbye.

The scenes in the apartment complex, the two separate calamities on different runways, the chase through the streets of Jerusalem, the plane crash, the World Health Organization; all are so, so good.

By the way, I hear there’s going to be a sequel?

If so, you can count me in.

But we better find out about the other twenty-five World Wars.